According to the hypothesis formulated by the Other Spaces collective, being a humanoid is a modern experience of which every one of us has both cultural and personal understanding. We “know” what humanoids look like, what they think and what they do, regardless of whether we believe in their existence or not.
The hypothesis has so far been applied in two participatory performances, in which the participants learn a set of simple techniques that let them reach the viewpoint of a humanoid, a being which is humanlike but much further developed. In this humanoid state the participants do an expedition among human beings, observing their particularities. Since the humanoid state is almost imperceptible to others, it allows the humanoid expeditioneers to remain unnoticed. The experience opens up new viewpoints, which the participants can share after the expedition, in a discussion session facilitated by the Other Spaces members.
In the 2015 performances at the city campus of the University of Helsinki, the target of examination was the library as a knowledge reservoir of the human species, and the related practices and habits of human beings. In 2016 the humanoids continued their mission at the Kiasma Theatre and the Kiasma art museum, examining contemporary art.
HUMANOID HYPOTHESIS. UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI CITY CAMPUS, 2015.
The first public presentations of the humanoid hypothesis took place in the city campus of the University of Helsinki, at Porthania and the University library. A brief instruction in the “humanoid school” introduced the techniques for reaching and keeping up the humanoid state. After entering the humanoid state, the participants, individually and as part of a group of fellow humanoids, made a secret expedition into the University library. The observations and experiences of the participants proved the validity of the humanoid hypothesis: examining the behaviour and actions of humans from an extraterrestrial viewpoint is sensible and justified, and can bring up new viewpoints into our own human life.
An important part of Humanoid Hypothesis was the preparatory period where the working group members made visits into numerous places while in the humanoid state. The humanoids took public transport, and visited places like museums and exhibitions. They were also invited to visit private homes. The performance included material and experiences from these visits.
ALIEN ART. HUMANOID HYPOTHESIS 2. KIASMA THEATRE, 2016 – 2017.
In this second performance based on the humanoid hypothesis, the humanoid experience reaches the very highest pinnacle of human development: art. Or is this really so? Does art really represent the evolutionary development of humankind? Alien Art. Humanoid Hypothesis 2 expanded on the elements of the previous year’s Humanoid Hypothesis, becoming a completely different performance consisting of three parts. In the first part, a number of artworks from Kiasma’s collection descended on the stage and were met from the viewpoint of an extraterrestrial intellect. In the second part the audience was invited to the stage of the Kiasma Theatre, where they were instructed in the techniques for entering the humanoid state. The fresh humanoids were guided to the exhibition halls of Kiasma, where each participant was free to experience the exhibition as a humanoid. In the third and last part of the performance, the participants returned to the Kiasma Theatre for returning into human form and sharing experiences in facilitated discussions.
WRITINGS AND REVIEWS
Esa Kirkkopelto, “HUMANOIDIHYPOTEESI. Posthumanismia pelkän järjen rajoissa”.
Helmi Saukkoriipi: ”Kuinka kokea taidetta?”, Lily’s Kulttuurikriitikko -blog 26.4.2016.
Milja Liimatainen: ”Hetkeni humanoidina”, Kiasma blog 27.4.2016.
Linnea/Kujerruksia: Maan ulkopuolinen taide. Humanoidihypoteesi 2 (Toisissa tiloissa/Kiasma-teatteri), Kujerruksia -blog 23.1.2017.
Martti Mäkelä: Toisissa tiloissa -ryhmän esityksessä kokeillaan muuttumista humanoidiksi, Skenet.fi 27.02.2015.
YOU CAN EXPERIENCE THE HUMANOID HYPOTHESIS ALSO AS A WORKSHOP!
The workshop version of Humanoid Hypothesis has been performed, among other places, at the Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova museum of history and modern art, EMMA Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Brighton Fringe Festival at the UK, and the Summer school at Villigst, Germany. More info and booking a workshop: [email protected].
During winter 2014 – 2015, humanoids visited human homes mediated by our group members. We asked people to write about their experience of inviting a humanoid to their home.
[Translator’s note: Since Finnish personal pronouns don’t have gender, I will mainly use “it” to refer to the humanoid, rather than “he” or “she”.]
The humanoid rang my doorbell just on time. He/she (it?) stood at the door without flourishes and boasting, holding just a plastic bag from S-market. The humanoid presented itself and held out a gift. It was a box of natural oatmeal. The humanoid stepped in delicately and arranged its shoes on the floor into an exceptionally beautiful pattern. My first impression about a gentle and profoundly sophisticated visitor from far away proved to be accurate. My visitor from elsewhere dit not judge anything, but admired everything in its subdued manner. It didn’t talk pointlessly, but considerd its words, all the time maintaining eye contact and profound conversation. The humanoid gave me space. It let me ask questions, so I would hear its opinions and learn from them. The humanoid thought our kitchen was excellent. It told me it liked cats and rooms. It thought candles were nice, as well as writing and making things with hands. I felt that the humanoid was pursuing encounters and sharing. I felt a true presence, combined with an absence of self-promotion, rush and incoherence. We conversed for more than an hour. It was liberating: to go straight to the point. I didn’t need to stay alert, I could be open and honest without anxiety. The humanoid was gentle, stable, calm, and it behaved beautifully. We spoke about conflicts in human life and about his observations on Earth. We spoke of feelings and emotional knots. It was fascinating to hear what it’s like to come from “elsewhere”, to be an “other”, and about the observations born from this point of view. The humanoid told me that in its view people don’t realise how interesting they are and how rich, even when they don’t have any money. It said that humanoids don’t struggle as much as humans do. According to it, humanoids appreciate communication and freedom, and they release their feelings without remaining attached to them like humans do. The humanoid thought that people take feelings very seriously. We spoke of many kinds of things, but mainly I was interested in the humanoid’s perspective on the struggle of being a human, and on the different kinds of worries, conflicts, emotional constructions and messy situations that human life seems to have enough of. I suspect I learned from the humanoid about how you don’t always have to get involved in everything. You can stop and clarify your own situation. On its departure the humanoid still wanted to give me the domestic travel book it was carrying in its bag, after I showed interest in it. This was very generous, but since it liked reading the book, I said it should hold on to it. For a while I wondered about its survival outdoors. But I’m sure it will. We said our goodbyes warmly. After the visit our home felt calm and beautiful. A benevolent presence and strong memory of the visit remained. It was a gift from the heavens.
I had agreed to meet the humanoid at six pm. At ten to six I noticed I was quite anxious, because I have not met humanoids in my home earlier. And then it was already probably exactly six when the humanoid knocked. So I went to open. Hello hello good evening good evening, welcome, you can put your coat here and there is the light. The humanoid seemed very humanoid, but looked like a person. And I noticed I was in a new situation, and it made me smile like it probably always does. The humanoid gave me a tube of toothpaste, which I received with two hands a bit confused and I might have bowed a bit. I can’t remember.
I started to make tea and asked in a friendly tone if tea would be nice, and I remember the humanoid’s reply “I don’t really taste anything”. Then we started the conversation during which I forgot how this humanoid ended up at my place, I mean for me it became a real humanoid. The kind of other creature type, where you can’t really figure out how much trouble it must have been to come here to my home in a human shape and form. And does it have a shape at all when it is really itself or does it even have such a thing as self and is it a he or a she or it, or is it maybe them, and now or before or always and everything. And then came the phase where I didn’t care anymore about all this because it or he or she or they were here just like they were and that’s it. And then we travelled to what and where is my understanding of Panama, and probably elsewhere too, I can’t remember. And then the humanoid left, at least partly. And I am smiling.
“Will you receive a humanoid in your home for an hour?”
– – –
Me: What kinds of things have you noticed about people?
Humanoid: People aspire a lot.
Me: Is it bad?
H: Well no, maybe they will eventually become more like us.
M: Are humanoids better than people?
M: In what way?
H: People have lots of problems.
M: Don’t humanoids have problems?
H: Yes, there are problems, but we don’t think about them in so complicated ways. Are you simple or complicated?
M: – – –
H: Excuse me, that was a difficult question.
M: I like difficult questions, I just have to think a bit. – – – I would say I have many levels, but I try to find simple solutions.
H: (hahaha) What would a complicated solution be like? Not very good.
We sat, facing each other, at the kitchen table. We drank tea, we talked and were quiet. An hour passed. I enjoyed the directness and the absence of pretending of the humanoid in my company. The humanoid didn’t react with much feeling. It also didn’t communicate nonverbally like I’m used to people doing. I noticed that I missed the human habit of bringing emotions and different kinds of gestures into the interaction.
Behind our door stood a humanoid in winter clothes. We asked it to come inside and leave the the coat in the coatrack. It seemed to be easy enough.
The humanoid gave a gift of a pillboxful of coffee. Probably learned from somewhere that it’s polite to bring coffee when you visit. I didn’t really know how to think about our visitor. I had prepared different kinds of questions about things that puzzled me. To begin, I asked if it spoke. It answered awkwardly: yes. I wanted to ask where it lives? What does our life look like? Is its real body a carbon-based organism? Do they have elements different from ours? But I thought it’s better to let the humanoid follow our life in peace and maybe that will be enough to wonder about. We made tomato soup. The humanoid watched gently by the side while we chopped the capsicum.
The humanoid sat on the couch and I in the chair. I decided to ask if it had been in this body for a long time? A few minutes, it said. I asked, what was its earlier body like? There are many kinds of bodies, was the reply. Silence followed. I went back to the kitchen to help my spouse with the soup. The humanoid wandered in the the flat, looking at furniture, books and other junk. I went back to sit in the chair. The humanoid continued its wandering. I decided to stay quiet and let it observe. In a moment the soup was ready and I asked if it wanted to eat? Yes. We ate, the three of us, sitting on pillows on the floor. It seemed to enjoy the food. After eating we collected the dishes and put on the television. The humanoid sat a few meters from the television and seemed to feel the light from the television with its palms. I wanted to ask what it feels like? Does it understand what a television is? Does the humanoid also find it strange that we fill our lives with fictional life? Soon after this the humanoid waved its hand, thanked and went out.
I opened the door for the humanoid and it gave me a medicinecupful of ground coffee. We were three: me, my spouse and it. We ate velouteed tomato soup which turned out tasty, but very different from all the previous times we made it. The visit was exciting, because for some reason my mind wandered bizarrely between right and wrong; I thought about what would be the right way to be in the same space with the humanoid and what would be wrong. I didn’t really dare to ask about things, because I didn’t want to position myself as an interrogator. Then I thought about the Finnish word for guest, and how at the same time it means invitee and stranger. Maybe because of this the mood of the visit was tense, but at the same time very compassionate.
A humanoid appeared at our home door exactly on time. It looked very familiar and therefore my thinking and our conversation quickly turned into the humanoid’s form and whether it thought that we humans couldn’t/wouldn’t understand/receive it in its true form. Personally I believe that humankind is ready to receive another life form but our humanoid suspected that its otherness would cause rejection and for itself it is easier to be like this, because it wants to get to know people.
The humanoid’s experience and understanding of us humans was quite hopeful. It said we always believe, wish and hope for something. It was also interested by the warmth and emotional connections between people, of which it hoped to learn something about. I felt that it believed more in humans than we do, in these times when humanity is certainly not at its best.
It is tells something about the human’s longing and hopefulness, the fact that the human repeatedly sends messages outside the universe it knows in a hope that some other life form would be found, would respond from emptiness. The humanoid had heard the Bach my wife played but it only knew second hand about other human attempts at contact.
Our guest was also interested by our corporeal, physical way of existing and the concreteness of our surroundings. Because of this I assumed it’s “everyday life”, sociability and communication to be virtual, matterless, in our way of speaking.
By the tea we spoke of the “rationality” of the human and the irrational basis for this rationality, culture, tomatoes. It also gave a sample of the poetry of its own kind, which to an ear not trained in the language sounded much like the rhythmics and repetition of birdsong, reminiscent also of dada poetry. The humanoid got interested in the bagatelle game we had placed there as a lure – the conversation about chance and its role in the universe started in an interesting way but was somewhat interrupted.
In the end, to me the most interesting thing was to meet a creature much like myself as an alien, to see how it from time to time heard “voices” that we would never catch and how its movements were considered and careful – as if every act was meaningful and would contains something valuable to keep, to memorize. Maybe I should too…
Every now and then I felt that in our curiousness we challenged it too much, upholding the human form, the strange language and searching for its idioms was obviously tasking even for a superior intellect.
The visit of one and a half hours ended as politely as it had begun – with wishes of meeting again.
The thought about a humanoid visit was very thrilling in advance. I found out about the meaning of the word humanoid, and wondered about what the humanoid would look like. I thought about language too. The task was to discuss with a humanoid, but how to discuss if we don’t have a common language.
The guest rang the doorbell on time, and when I opened, to my surprise I was met by a humanoid which looked very much like a human. The humanoid didn’t want coffee or tea, only a glass of water, so we went straight to the point. We had in a way opposite interests, since I was interested by humanoids, while my guest was studying the human species. But I’m under the impression that the conversation was satisfying to both parties.
We spoke for example about the relation between individual and collective identity, because the humanoid explained that they don’t have a self or individuality like humans do, but they are part of a larger group and can also change their form. Related to this we spoke also of different ways to communicate with others, as well as about the finiteness and timelessness of life. One point I raised was gender – the humanoid had been observing people but hadn’t paid attention to gender differences, and I had to explain about the differences between men and women. The humanoid, on the other hand, was interested in nature, and we spoke a while especally about trees, forests and the felling of trees. The subject was topical, since a few days earlier a pine tree had fallen in a storm due to forest felling at my cottage sauna plot.
The discussion was intellectually satisfying, because time and again I ran into things that are so obvious in the human point of view, that one thinks of them as given and natural. At first the humanoid needed to remind me of my human-centric thinking (very considerately), but during the visit I probably learned to speak at least slightly less human-centrically. All in all the conversation was pleasant and my guest was a very sympathetic acquaintance. I was honoured when upon its departure it gave me a little turquoise stone as a gift. It is now on my windowsill to remind me of a unique visitation.
HUMANOID HYPOTHESIS 1 WORKING GROUP
Antti Halonen, Timo Jokitalo, Esa Kirkkopelto, Kati Korosuo, Mikko Lehtonen, Minja Mertanen, Jaakko Ruuska, Paula Tella
Producer: Lauri Kontula
ME A HUMANOID? In the panel discussion at Tiedekulma with Esa Kirkkopelto and the Other Spaces collective, the science community was represented by: Terhi Utriainen (Docent, HY, religion studies), Tuukka Perhoniemi (FT, theoretical philosophy, Ciderus Nuncius), Irmeli Hautamäki (researcher, HY, Esthetics), Antti Hautamäki (free researcher, innovation studies, active at the University of Jyväskylä, SITRA and HY).
ALIEN ART. HUMANOID HYPOTHESIS 2 WORKING GROUP
Antti Halonen, Timo Jokitalo, Esa Kirkkopelto, Kati Korosuo, Mikko Lehtonen, Minja Mertanen, Jaakko Ruuska, Paula Tella
Lighting design: Janne Björklöf
Tech / Kiasma Theatre: Mari Kujala, Heikki Paasonen, Pekka Pitkänen, Johannes Vartola, Joonas Pehrsson
Exhibition department / Kiasma: Arja Miller, Eija Aarnio, Siukku Nurminen, Tiina Toivola, Mikko Hintz
Picture on the balloon: Amanda Vähämäki
Production: Sanni Pajula (Kiasma Theatre), Jenni Kokkomäki (Other Spaces)
Humanoidihypoteesi 1 premiered 17.2.2015, additional showings 19.2., 24.2., 25.2., 27.2., 4.3. and 5.3.2015 at the city campus, Porthania, Yliopistonkatu 3, Helsinki.
Humanoid Hypothesis workshop 7.2.2015 Performance Center, Helsinki.
Discussion panel ”Minäkö humanoidi? Ihmiskunnan uudistuminen humanismin jälkeen” (“Me a humanoid?”) 23.2.2015 Tiedekulma, Porthania, Yliopistonkatu 3, Helsinki.
Alien Art. Humanoid Hypothesis 2, premiered 22.4.2016, other showings 24.4., 27.4., 28.4., 29.4., 4.5.2016, with a rerun 20.1., 21.1. and 22.1.2017, all at the Kiasma Theatre.
Workshops based on Humanoidi Hypothesis have also been organised at the Villigst Summer School in Germany 24.8.2017, at the EMMA Espoo Museum of Modern Art 18.11.2017, at the Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova museum of history and modern art, Turku 24.3.2018, and during the Brighton Fringe Festival, UK, 4.-10.5.2018.
Humanoid Hypothesis 1 is produced by Other Spaces, supported by The Finnish Cultural Foundation.
Alien Art. Humanoid Hypothesis 2 was supported by Samuel Huberin taidesäätiö and Kiasma Theatre.